URI Oceanographers Track Changes in Narragansett Bay
Narragansett, RI--July 14, 1999--As part of a statewide, multi-disciplinary
program to improve monitoring of Narragansett Bay, scientists at the URI
Graduate School of Oceanography (GSO), led by chemical oceanographer Dana
Kester of Narragansett, have placed two instrumented buoys in the bay to
measure the changes in water properties and the overall health of the bay.
The buoys measure seawater temperature, salinity, oxygen content, pH, tide
height, and chlorophyll content.
Powered by batteries that are re-charged using solar panels, the buoys
take measurements automatically every 15 minutes and transmit their data
each day to a computer at GSO by a cellular telephone link. One buoy is
located in the upper bay south of Rocky Point, and the other buoy is located
in the mid-bay east of Quonset Point.
Measurements have been made day and night for approximately two weeks.
Assisted by GSO research scientist Wendy Woods of Jamestown and undergraduate
student Becky Eggiman of Narragansett, Kester plans to continue the measurements
throughout the year. The data will be used in research studies to better
understand the physical, chemical, and biological processes that occur in
the bay and will also be useful for a number of local marine environmental
"We are able to see the effects on the ecosystem of specific natural
processes," said Kester. "For example, on July 2 when we had a
period of high winds, the waters were totally mixed from top to bottom.
During the hot weather over the Fourth of July weekend, the phytoplankton
(microscopic plants that drift in the waters) used the nutrients that were
stirred up by the windy weather and grew rapidly, producing large amounts
of oxygen in the surface waters of the bay. As the bay became stratified
with warm less saline water over colder saline waters, the animals and micro-organisms
in the bottom waters began to deplete the oxygen near the seafloor. During
the past week we have also seen an intrusion of bottom waters enter the
bay from Rhode Island Sound. This can play an important role in fisheries
in the bay."
Funding for the buoys was provided by a grant from the National Oceanic
and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Other agencies and institutions involved
in this project to better understand the bay's processes and how they are
affected by human activity include NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service
laboratory in Narragansett, Roger Williams University, the Narragansett
Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve on Prudence Island, and the RI Department
of Environmental Management.
Visit the URI Graduate School of Oceanography website: http://www.gso.uri.edu/